Sunday, March 27, 2011

Salina turns 28 - we celebrate her spirit and her wisdom

This weekend Salina is having her 28th birthday, and helping me begin a series that looks at living with the senior horse.

The lovely Salina came to live with us when she was 23 years old. Late one night I was browsing online and came across a photo of her. The moment I saw her face, her slight tilt of the head as she looked directly into the camera lens, I thought "therapy horse."

Salina is a black Hannoverian mare who was imported from Germany as a brood mare. She has one white sock and a very fine crescent star. Salina also has one eye, and when she came to us she had fairly severe arthritis in both knees. But with regular but light work, no stalling, and some supplementation for her joints, she was able to teach us a few things about riding before we retired her completely at age 26.

Salina carried us through our first dealings with a hoof abscess. She taught me about mares and that being centered in my own body and self is the key to success when handling her. She taught me about mirroring and partnering and how both horses and people as they age can have bad days, bad weeks, and that there's nothing wrong with moving slowly when you need to do so.

Salina is why we were led to Rafer Johnson and Redford. She taught me to listen to my gut when dealing with the vet. Sometimes what I know about my horses is more relevant than the vet school knowledge. She taught me about the power of the maternal instinct, and on a daily basis now, she is my partner on November Hill, keeping her eye on everything in the neighborhood, pricking her ears to show me where to look when there's something I need to see.

Salina has come to my bedroom window in the middle of the night to wake me up when something was amiss. She stood by Rafer Johnson's stall when his leg was broken and kept him company, and in my opinion, her presence is why he healed so quickly.

Salina soaks her own hoof when she has an abscess brewing, takes hand signals from her blind side, whinnies a beautiful song in concert with Keil Bay for breakfast, and constantly mirrors the humans around her.

Salina led me to learn more about equine nutrition, and she taught me how to properly give paste wormer and other medications from tubes. She has done more to lead me in the right direction when it comes to working with and living with horses than all the books I've read, all the lessons I've taken, and all the geldings put together.

Salina has been a therapy horse. She has guided a number of clients through stuck places. But even more than that, she has been my therapy horse, my teacher, and my guide into middle life. There is no way a tray of home-made horse cookies and some apples can acknowledge all she gives to us here on November Hill.

Over the next few weeks I'll be working on a series of posts about some of the things I've learned as a result of seeing that late-night photo and making the decision to bring Salina to live with us. I'll also be writing about the difficulties of living with such a beautiful spirit as she moves closer to the end of her life. It's very possible Salina's next big lesson for me will be teaching me how to say goodbye to a wise and wonderful and magical goddess. It won't be easy, but I know it's a lesson I have to learn.

Happy birthday, Salina. We are so incredibly grateful for the years and the lessons.

16 comments:

Grey Horse Matters said...

Salina is that rare horse you will come across maybe once in a lifetime if you are lucky enough to recognize them. This was a beautiful post that brought tears to my eyes.

Happy Birthday Salina and may you have many more healthy years with the family that loves you.

Kate said...

Happy birthday, indeed - senior horses have so much to offer - I miss my Noble and his kindness every day. Looking forward to the next installments in your series.

jme said...

happy birthday salina! what a beautiful soul she is. when you have the privilege of meeting a horse like her, you begin to understand why it is the wise old mares are the true leaders of the herd. and when that herd expands to include humans, they take us in, look after us and help to guide us in their own special way.

Dougie Donk said...

Happy birthday from my wise old mare Tammy, who will be 28 this year.

I totally agree that they teach us loads & hope that we both have many more years of learning.

ponymaid said...

billie, what a beautiful and moving tribute to the process of aging and learning together. We learned a lot about - well, about everything, for the time Jack lived here. We wish Salina many more years of sharing her wisdom and watching over her two young lads.

Victoria Cummings said...

Oh Billie - I love this tribute to your great lady, Salina. I know that she and Silk are kindred spirits. It gives me some consolation that you got Salina when she was 23 since Silk will be 23 on April 28th. They both still have so much to teach us and every minute with them will stay with us forever. Happy Birthday, Salina, you are a treasure!

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

What a lovely post billie.

We lost Ginger a year ago last week - and still miss her wise, generous spirit.

Happy, happy birthday and many happy returns to Salina - I know your family treasures every day with such a wonderful creature. :)

Matthew C. said...

Salina has such presence in her. Happy birthday, girl.

billie said...

Arlene, thank you. When I took her tray of horse cookies out, she stood back and let the geldings belly up and eat all theirs first. Then I hid the rest in my pockets and gave her one at a time over the next half hour or so while I mucked the paddock. She never came hunting or pushing her nose in even though she knew I had pockets full of treats for her - she knew exactly what my plan was.

billie said...

Thanks, Kate. It's funny because Keil Bay is 22 in April but I rarely consider him a senior. Salina's knees make her seem her age, but her spirit is huge even when she moves more slowly.

billie said...

j, she is truly a beautiful soul. I watch her with the donkeys and I know how amazing she was as a mother.

billie said...

Thank you to Tammy for those wise old mare wishes!! Happy birthday to you too!

billie said...

Sheaffer, Jack certainly taught all of us via your blog and his inimitable style. It's amazing how much they know, and all the experience they carry.

billie said...

Thank you, Victoria. I have felt that same kinship between Salina and Silk. They are absolutely treasures in our lives.

billie said...

C, thank you. I hope you'll write some Ginger stories on your blog!!

billie said...

Matthew, you definitely experience the wisdom, as well as the sharp edges, of the middle-aged women here! :)